North Korea leader returns – with a limp
State media shows Kim Jong-un, using a cane, visiting residential area and science institution after six-week absence.
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has visited a housing development using a cane for support, according to state media reports.
Tuesday’s development ended a lengthy absence from public view that had prompted speculation over his health and grip on power in the secretive country.
Several images on the front page of Tuesday’s Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, showed Kim smiling and gesturing, surrounded by aides and wearing his signature dark buttoned suit and appearing to be supporting himself with a black cane.
Kim, 31, had not appeared in public since attending a concert with his wife on September 3, missing an important political anniversary on Friday as well as a recent session of the country’s parliament.
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Pyongyang said, “The video had no date in it, so it’s not clear exactly when this happened but it appeared on state television on early Tuesday morning.”
A story in the official KCNA news agency on two public appearances by Kim was dated Tuesday, but did not specify on which day he made the visits. It also did not mention Kim’s lengthy absence from public view.
Reports could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera.
The KCNA story, which was typical of the state media’s chronicling of Kim’s activities, said he “gave field guidance” to the new Wisong Scientists Residential District and visited the newly built Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences.
Health claims denied
North Korean officials had denied that Kim’s public absence since early September was health-related.
Officials in both the US and South Korea had said recently that there were no indications Kim was in political trouble.
A source with access to the North’s leadership told the Reuters news agency on Thursday that Kim was in firm control of the country, but had hurt his leg taking part in a military drill.
Kim, who has visibly gained weight since coming to power after his father died of a heart attack in 2011, had been seen walking with a limp since an event with officials in July.
His prolonged absence from public view was not the first.
In June 2012, six months after coming to power, state media failed to report on or photograph him for 23 days.
He reappeared the next month, visiting a dolphinarium.